Jun 29 2020
May 01 2017
Last Thursday afternoon, I made the scenic drive up from Somerville, MA to Portsmouth, NH, for yet another viewing of the film West Side Story, at the Cinemagic Stadium 10 Theatre, where they showed this particular film as this month’s part of their Cult Classic events. Leaving Somerville at around 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon, I …
May 23 2013
Or at least the New York Times Online says so.
Here’s an amusing piece:
Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories
Because real life contains conspiracies? Naah. Couldn’t be!
Now, of course we could just stop talking about conspiracies, because everyone knows how ridiculous such talk actually is. But will those messy conspiracies go away if we stop talking about them? Probably not, which would explain why Maggie Koerth-Baker had to write the NYT piece in the first place. So here’s the solution! We’re going to make up some sort of pop-psychology “theory” to explain why people think about conspiracies. That’ll do the trick! Gee, if only members of the human race were to limit their thinking to whatever it is that the “experts” produce on any given topic, they could stay sane, and we wouldn’t have to discredit them. Maggie Koerth-Baker is of course one of those experts, and she will protect you from the pernicious belief in conspiracy theories by psychologizing them away. That and Kos will ban anyone who writes “conspiracy theory diaries,” one of which this isn’t.
So, yeah, everyone knows there are no conspiracies, and there are all kinds of events out there that might be attributable to conspiracies, but they’re all caused by people acting alone, and all by themselves, without so much as talking to anyone else. Right?
Now, maybe some really twisted minds out there think that real-life conspiracies develop as a result of chance meetings at the meetings of the Trilateral Commission, or the Bilderberg Group, or the World Economic Forum, or the Council on Foreign Relations. Or maybe such conspiracies are said to happen in the secret meetings of the FBI or the CIA or the NSA or ALEC. But everyone knows that (even if these organizations really did exist, which they don’t) all they really do at those meetings is play ping-pong and eat pizza. Right?
So, armed with our aerosol can of Conspiracy-Be-Gone spray, ahead into the NYT piece we venture!
“The best predictor of belief in a conspiracy theory is belief in other conspiracy theories,” says Viren Swami, a psychology professor who studies conspiracy belief at the University of Westminster in England. Psychologists say that’s because a conspiracy theory isn’t so much a response to a single event as it is an expression of an overarching worldview.
There is, of course, an alternate explanation for conspiracy theories — I think it goes like “maybe the official explanations aren’t credible” or something like that. But only people with a certain worldview believe crazy stuff of that sort.
Perfectly sane minds possess an incredible capacity for developing narratives, and even some of the wildest conspiracy theories can be grounded in rational thinking, which makes them that much more pernicious.
My god, they’re developing narratives! Human nature must be innately bad. And I have to wonder in this context whether the perniciousness of a conspiracy theory can be quantified. Could we put a conspiracy theory on the Wild-O-Meter, and if it goes above a certain number, then we could say it’s pernicious? This could be important in distinguishing pernicious theories from merely innocuous ones.
Here’s an example. Just after the disaster of September 11th, 2001, the Bush administration allowed the bin Laden family to be flown out of the country without so much as an FBI question on a day when every airplane in America was grounded. Let’s say (hypothetically; we don’t really believe this stuff, do we?) that the bin Ladens were allowed to do this because they had urgent family business or something. Now that’s not very pernicious, is it? I experience urgent family business all the time. Don’t you?
On the other hand, some of these theories about who killed JFK, well, we don’t want to break the Wild-O-Meter, do we? You can’t buy them at the 99 cents store anymore.
While psychologists can’t know exactly what goes on inside our heads, they have, through surveys and laboratory studies, come up with a set of traits that correlate well with conspiracy belief. In 2010, Swami and a co-author summarized this research in The Psychologist, a scientific journal. They found, perhaps surprisingly, that believers are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular.
Now everyone here knows cynicism isn’t rational, right? Your leaders are always acting in good faith, of course.
Economic recessions, terrorist attacks and natural disasters are massive, looming threats, but we have little power over when they occur or how or what happens afterward. In these moments of powerlessness and uncertainty, a part of the brain called the amygdala kicks into action.
So, you see, if you stop searching for explanations for economic recessions, terrorist attacks, and natural disasters, and just accept that your tendency to do so is a product of your errant amygdala, you will be closer to enlightenment!
Our access to high-quality information has not, unfortunately, ushered in an age in which disagreements of this sort can easily be solved with a quick Google search. In fact, the Internet has made things worse. Confirmation bias – the tendency to pay more attention to evidence that supports what you already believe – is a well-documented and common human failing. People have been writing about it for centuries. In recent years, though, researchers have found that confirmation bias is not easy to overcome. You can’t just drown it in facts.
And so, you see, our social scientists have everything under control. All that’s left for us to do is to believe all of that “high quality information” we’re given, and restrain our impulses to reside in the land of “confirmation bias,” which prevents us from seeing the light.
Psychologists aren’t sure whether powerlessness causes conspiracy theories or vice versa. Either way, the current scientific thinking suggests these beliefs are nothing more than an extreme form of cynicism, a turning away from politics and traditional media – which only perpetuates the problem.
Thus if we can all quit “turning away from politics and traditional media,” and learn to accept the system, we can overcome those feelings of powerlessness as they are caused by our belief in conspiracy theories.
See? Problem solved. Conspiracy theories are all just in our heads, and the quicker we recognize that, the more easily we’ll be able to ignore them, and get on with the enlightened task of believing what we’re told.
Feb 02 2012
(Disclaimer: This is a hilarious story, but eating while reading it is not suggested. Strongly suggested. Heh 🙂
So far? 2012 hasn’t been sterling or anything. I mean, I did discover I had a heart again for a moment which is a good thing. Then I discovered shortly thereafter it could be broken. I had forgotten that part too. Even Goddesses have to relearn caution, humans can be mean things, even stalking things. EWWW! Enough about that.
So, today I turned 49. Didn’t see my shadow or anything; the reflection in the mirror of the morning face was quite enough. Yeah, I could crawl back in bed for 6 more weeks, but that would require a store of batteries I can’t quite afford. LOL.
But I didn’t come here to talk about that. I came to talk about my Birthday Eve, the closing moments of my life as a 48 year old.
Its a funny story. Click through, you need the laugh, you know you do.
Dec 20 2011
I have spent a number of years complaining about the interactions between Democrats and Republicans, but after the recent events involving the Keystone XL and civil liberties cave-ins, I’ve decided it’s time to stop complaining and embrace the madness.
But I also feel like there’s an ugly edge to all this…that hasn’t really been fully exploited.
I mean, Republicans have tried to force through a lot of disgusting ideas this Congress as they’ve held various bills hostage, but it seems like, if they really tried, they could do so much more.
But I’m not here to complain, I’m here to help; that’s why today we’ll be trotting out a few ideas of our own that Republicans can attach to bills throughout 2012, with the assistance of certain errant Democrats.
It’ll be fun, it’ll be festive, but most of all…it’ll be an exercise in Civic Responsibility, and in these difficult times, that’s something we could sorely use.
Dec 10 2011
I got a weird little story about my friend Blitz Krieger to bring to you today.
He’s had a crazy car problem, he has, and over the past few months he thought he had found a solution – in fact, he thought he had found the solution of his dreams – but in the end, he’s discovered that the things you dream about often don’t go according to plan.
The way it’s worked out for him so far, it’s been a lot of anticipation followed by a sudden wave of frustration, but I feel like he’s a lot better off having his particular problem with his car…because if he’d had cancer instead, he’d surely be dead by now.
Aug 01 2011
So everybody’s hearing the news, right?
There is a tentative debt ceiling deal, and this Administration and Congressional Democrats seem to have won everything they wanted: Republicans get to have multiple “we don’t approve” votes before 2012 on raising the debt ceiling, there won’t be any new revenue, there’s going to be another “hostage-taking” event around Christmastime, for many Democrats the issue of the Ryan Budget and the dismantling of Medicare is likely off the table for the 2012 electoral cycle, and the Administration seems to have figured out a way to not involve itself in shaping the way that entitlement reform will work out.
All in all, it’s some pretty slick negotiating, and I’m sure this Administration and Democratic Congressional leaders must be very proud.
Even on bad days, however, you gotta have some fun, and that’s why I’m encouraging everyone to take a minute today to say #thanksalot.
Jul 27 2011
(FNS – Washington, New Germany, April 17, 1947) America’s new Führer, Adolf Hitler, announced today that his official War History would in fact acknowledge that one of the biggest contributing factors to the defeat of the Allies was the insistence of the former United States of America on sticking to its Balanced Budget Amendment, which left them unable to fund the wartime conversion of the US economy for the benefit of the Alliance.
“All those ideas Mr. Roosevelt spoke of”, said Hitler, “Lend-Lease, modular shipbuilding, War Bonds, secret weapons…in the end, all of them were just words, since the Americans’ Congress was never willing to allow the country to fully fund its war effort.”
As has been previously disclosed, Waffen SS historians have already located caches of documents in Washington describing plans to fund a massive military expansion in the former United States by selling War Bonds.
These debt instruments would have allowed the Roosevelt Administration to spend up to 40% of the Gross Domestic Product of the former Nation in defending itself, the former United Kingdom, and other nations against the Fatherland, but for reasons that are still not well understood Conservative politicians demanded that the former US Government never “take on debt for outsiders”, or, in the words of Mae Cadoodie, leader of the American Tea Party movement, “Never invite a foreign entanglement that raises our taxes”.
Had the Americans been allowed to sell War Bonds, or to raise taxes to fund the War, it is estimated that they could have provided tens of thousands of aircraft, millions of military vehicles, and hundreds of ships, but the Balanced Budget Amendment prevented any of that.
This represents the end of a series of political arguments that had been taking place since the 1930s, when some American economists were suggesting that a new idea called “deficit spending” could be helpful in bringing the former USA out of the Great Depression; at that time the Roosevelt Administration was unable to establish agencies such as the Work Projects Administration, which would have built public works projects throughout the USA in an effort to revive the moribund economy.
Mae Cadoodie and others fought back successfully against these ideas, pointing out that the last thing the US economy needed in a bad economy was new taxes; they made the same arguments when the Roosevelt Administration first proposed Lend-Lease as a war emergency measure.
“We cannot inflict punishing new taxes on American industry at this fragile time in our recovery” Cadoodie said in a famous speech in 1939, “and if the market is really there for this military materiel, if it’s not just some boondoggle manufactured by Roosevelt to take money out of the pockets of the American people, then I’m sure the British will be able to find the funding they need from the markets or from charitable donations”.
Cadoodie was unavailable for comment, as she and most other former American politicians are still serving on the Eastern Front, and will be for the foreseeable future.
In a related story, the conversion of the remainder of the American industrial base is underway for the fight against the Russians, and millions of otherwise unemployed Americans are being drafted into the military services in preparation for the final assault.
Jul 04 2011
So I thought I was going to have another Jay Inslee story for y’all today, but it turns out that I’m going to have to do more research before we can “come to press” with that one.
But that’s OK, because the world’s been busy doing a lot of other things – and while many of them get media coverage, some don’t get a lot of notice at all.
And of course, there are also those stories that look one way at first glance…but look a lot different when you dig a bit deeper.
We’ll hit a few of those today, have a bit of fun doing it, and get ready for what promises to be another busy week of strategically not doing things in Washington.
To make things even better, some of the stories will be real, and some won’t.
We’ll see if you can tell the difference.
May 17 2011
I know better than to go drinking on Sundays, but it’s just been one of those weeks, and I figured I’d grab a few beers, no big deal, and then head hone and get some real work done.
Of course, the reason I don’t drink on Sundays is because that’s when Satan likes to go hang out at my favorite bar – and to be real honest with you, lately Satan’s getting to be a real drag to hang out with once he gets drinking.
I mean, it’s depressing: he’s always talking about how he gets blamed for the economy, even though he claims he has no control over Wall Street, and atheism is a bit of a sore subject – and he’s forever complaining about how all his best customers have been outsourcing more and more work to Varsavarti.
But if you think all that’s a drag to have to deal with…you should hear him complain about Republican Presidential Politics.